December Studio Notes Part 1

I am done with academics for the calendar year. Over the past few weeks, as my courses have wound down, I’ve been working up to jumping into work on Spartan Holiday No. 3., devoted to my Paris sojourn. Utah, the subject of the promised “Canyonland,” is being pushed back a few issues; I have chosen to work with the French material while still fresh. 

We bug our students about printing out work they find themselves responding to at a given moment, or during a given episode. There is a temporal element to what moves us: it shifts over time. Over the long haul there’s a macro continuity. But it’s too early for undergraduates–that is, to sense the macro. Even so, there’s nothing like attentiveness in the here and now. And early loves often stick. 

My studio pin-up wall gets refreshed every time I start a new round of sustained work. I’ve been working on it. I don’t think it’s done. Done being a slightly suspect construction. It’s always in flux, to a degree. But it does settle in for stretches. And I’m getting close.

My go-to sources have remained consistent, but have also expanded.

Not everything makes the wall, which is predominantly formal/visual and partly experiential. 

As I begin to get comfortable in the batter’s box, as it were, I thought I’d share a few things I’m looking at. (Looking at is incorrect and vulgar-sounding, but “at which I am looking” seems so ponderous. Better erroneous than gaseous.) I do so partly to back up my recommendations to students with practice, and partly to tease a few things out, which always happens when I write about what I’m seeing or making. 

















Philip Guston remains an important source for me, including the extended molting from social realist to abstract expressionist (late 30s to early 50s) and back again, from ab-ex pro to clumpy, bizarrely refined cartoonist (early 60s to late 70s). 






I remain preoccupied with the tension between depiction and abstraction, which I have come to see as the formal problem that drives my work.











Seen at right, in much the same palette as Guston’s Ancient Wall (1976), a Navajo rug, a symbolic abstraction.








Another emblematic American abstractionist, Stuart Davis, occupies a (nearly) fixed position in my artistic heavens.

The Place des Vosges No. 2 has interested me for years; in Paris I saw what Davis saw, to my surprise. (He spent time in Paris in the late 20s, and was stimulated by it.) Davis’ Gloucester landscape gouache Shapes of Landscape Space (1938) is up on the wall now. Shapes is at the very top of this post.










Ivan Brunetti has slowly worked his way into my lineup. Such economy, and such range within it! Lovely color, too. I have become a fan of Brunetti's writing, as well. His Cartooning: Theory and Practice is a gift to readers. (Yale University Press, 2011, a reprint from the slightly smaller version published by Comic Art in 2009.)

Part 2 will cover Parisian sources and discoveries.

Stuart Davis, Shapes of Landscape Space, probably Gloucester, gouache on paper, 1938

N. Glaise, Lettres a Boule Fantaisie, detail from chromolithograph lettering sheet, a loose Plate (X) from (what I think is) Bibliotheque Du Peintre En Batiment, Modeles De Lettres Sur Vingt Tons De Fonds Differents, published by Emile Thezard, Paris, 1901

Stuart Davis, a cityscape, also probably from Gloucester, circa 1940

Philip Guston, untitled drawing, 1950

Guston, The Light, oil on canvas, 1964

 Guston, Ancient Wall, oil on canvas, 1976

Designer Uncredited, Navajo rug from Teec Nos Pos, Apache County, Arizona. George H.H. Huey, photographer. Issued as a postcard in a set published under the title Navajo Rugs of the Southwest, undated (which I bought at the Denver Art Museum in 2008, I think)

a Stuart Davis not pinned up now, but on my wall in Paris last July and August, Place des Vosges No. 2, 1928 (the actual place in Paris being worthy of comment, but not here and now)

 Ivan Brunetti, Goings On Around Town, New Yorker cover, September 23, 2013

 Ivan Brunetti, detail, Goings On Around Town.